By Raphael Tenthani
Perhaps it's mere coincidence; perhaps it's because the year has just ended but past headliners came back to make news just before as the year ended and as we start a brand new year.
"Gay Issue Cost Malawi K84bn," was the headline in Malawi News reporting that at a December 13-15, 2010, review meeting in Sofia, Bulgaria, a panel rejected Malawi's 84bn Malawi Kwacha (US $56m) Global Fund for Malaria, Tuberculosis and HIV allocation for failing to repeal laws that criminalise homosexuality and prostitution.
The first five months of 2010 were dominated by news of the arrest, trial and protracted incarceration of Malawi's first openly gay couple who publicly declared their intention to wed. Despite the global media training its sights on Malawi, the southern African country refused to give in to the Western pressure to release the two and repeal homophobic legislation or risk economic backlash.
It took the intervention of the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, who flew to Malawi to intercede on behalf of the couple, to have Pres Bingu wa Mutharika to pardon 20-year-old Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza, 26, whom Blantyre Chief Resident Magistrate Nyakwawa Usiwa-Usiwa had sentenced to what he famously dubbed a "scary sentence" of 14 years for unnatural acts (buggery) and gross indecency.
The weekly reported that despite Malawi indicating that it would address issues of Men Having Sex With Men (MSMs) and commercial sex workers in its HIV/Aids campaign, the Global Fund was not impressed because Malawi still has anti-gay and anti-prostitution laws on its statute books, thus its decision to reject the country's proposal.